Never has something seemingly so simple as page tagging caused so many problems.
Poor tagging is costing companies thousands of pounds a month from wasted web analytics, duplicate affiliate commissions and marketing that isn't tracked properly.
There are certain things we know about the tagging of client web sites so that the performance of online campaigns can be tracked.
They range from fundamental problems in getting sites tagged because of IT constraints, to the importance of assigning a sale to the right online channel, and to underlying concerns about the independence of the companies that control the sensitive data that results from it all.
But, while the issues – and there are more – that surround site tagging remain largely unexplored, their significance for advertisers rises with every extra pound they commit to online channels.
Direct response-based advertising has become directly plugged in to clients’ businesses and decisions about these campaigns are based almost entirely on the intelligence derived from the tags on their site.
It seems clear then that the real problems of site tagging ought to be made evident to advertisers and addressed.
First, the perceived failure of some campaigns can often be down to something as simple as a tag being placed on the wrong page of an advertiser’s site or not even placed at all.
Many major clients’ sites are hosted and IT managed outside the UK and subject to three-month development cycles.
This makes tag management a nightmare. A system that allows advertisers and agencies to place and manipulate tags themselves straight from their web pages would be invaluable.
Also, clients have often been tempted to switch off other forms of advertising in favour of search having discovered - from their site tags - that buying customers almost always arrive from there.
A brief consideration of the path people take to a purchase would tell them this was always likely to be the case.
But, does that really mean they haven’t been affected by anything other than a sponsored link?
Effective site tagging helps advertisers to understand the impact of all other exposures to online advertising.
Meanwhile, an almighty battle is being waged by the giants of digital to own the ‘one tag to rule them all’ - that is the site tag into which all other tags can be placed so that issues like de-duplication of sales (ensuring that an advertiser doesn’t pay for a sale more than once) can be managed.
Vying to own this tag – and thus secure a rather locked-down position in the advertiser’s ecosystem – are site analytics firms and ad servers.
Each, naturally, wants to control the master tag and has a decent claim on valuable advertiser data.
And each is entering the other’s business to strengthen their case while making often spurious claims about the potential of their particular system.
Since effective site tagging is absolutely fundamental to the success of online campaigns, all these are major issues affecting advertisers and their agencies in how they apportion spend.
It really is time they were dealt with.
Paul Cook is the CEO of Positive Feedback .